I, like every parent, want my children to be great. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do have great kids. They are smart and creative and very sweet (when they want to be). But, they are living in a world that encourages a minimalist attitude. Mediocrity is acceptable and expected. In many ways, though I try to shelter them from the worst of it all, they are influenced by the attitudes around them. They don’t want to work hard, they don’t want to give things their all. They just look to take the easy way out…. when it comes to chores and when it comes to school work, sometimes even when it comes to their prayers. They often strive for the least amount of work required to get by.
I want better for them. I want them to be hard workers. I want them to be willing to go to great lengths to accomplish great things in this world. I want them to be willing to make sacrifices for what they believe in and be willing to take a stand for what is right. I desire for them something more than a lukewarm existence. I hope they’ll have lives full of meaning, lives full of distinction, lives marked by a love of Christ and a desire to serve Him in all things. This desire of mine, to encourage greatness in my children, can be quite frustrating at times. I look at them and I look at the world around them and I am unsure how to go about instilling the values and virtues necessary for greatness.
I can figure out, pretty easily, what will not spur my children to greatness. I have a long list in my head of things I could do to encourage certain behaviors or discourage others that might teach my children right from wrong but would fall way short of inspiring anything more than the status quo.
My day to day approach is not necessarily working as well as I’d like either. I try to set clear expectations for my children and give them consequences based on their choices in relation to those expectations. If they choose to break a rule they pay the consequences. My goal is to teach them that they are in control of their choices, and that their choices all have consequences. Good choices have good (natural) consequences and bad choices have bad (sometimes natural, more often mom-imposed) consequences. They can decide for themselves, which they would prefer in life. It sounds good but I feel I face each day in a sort of reactionary mode. I watch for rule violations, I dole out consequences (okay, punishments) for infractions. They continue to value a self-centered, minimalist existence and I feel guilty and exhausted by lunch time. Clearly the goal is right, somehow the execution is not quite what it should be.
Home schooling seems to be my best tool in inspiring greatness. In our academic studies, I have the opportunity to expose my children to amazing examples of real success in this world. Jesus taught using parables, stories His followers could relate to and learn from. So, following in His perfect example, I try to expose my children to stories I want them to learn from. We have read about the life of Pope John Paul the Great, BL. Mother Teresa, St. Paul and others. We have read biographies about Martin Luther King Jr., and Helen Keller, and are now enjoying one about JRR Tolkien. We read the Bible together regularly and discuss what God may be saying to us. But, even with all that we do during “school time” I never feel I am doing enough.
The hardest part of inspiring greatness is definitely in setting an example of it in the life that I live. Greatness feels pretty hard to come by in my sea of laundry, dishes, and grocery lists. I suppose the kids look at their math workbooks, cluttered bedrooms, and boring chore lists and feel the same. But, I guess true greatness really does come in the quiet moments of serving God. If He calls me to serve Him by washing sippy cups and folding mountains of laundry then the best thing I can do for my children is to do it with an attitude of love, and then hope they notice enough to be inspired.